I am not lost…

May 17, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: THE BLUEBELL INFORMANT by Nick R B Tingley

I received a copy of this book free of charge from the author in exchange for my honest review.

I like killers with calling cards. I like the concept of calling cards in general. (One of the video games I’m playing at present uses the concept, and it pleases me immensely.) So in reading the description of BLUEBELL INFORMANT, and seeing the flowers used as such, I was instantly intrigued. (I blame all the Criminal Minds I’ve watched over the years. My brain wants to profile everything, and the calling card just adds a new level of interest.)

As with so many thrillers I’ve read as of late, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I always get a little nervous about body counts (I blame Ethan Cross for that one) but if I wanted to make a judgment on stereotypes alone, given that the main detective is female, I didn’t expect a very high body count.

How amusing, I find out later, that I base that on assumptions.

There’s a whole chunk of this book based on the assumptions characters make–the first of which being that Daniel Barker, failed politician and attempted murder victim, assumes that DS Evelyn Giles is a “real” English woman. He does not account for the fact that while perfectly British, ethnically, she’s Chinese–and this doesn’t sit well with him at all. The story, as one might expect, goes careening off from there. Giles is convinced that she’d solved the case of the Bluebell Killer, and Barker is just as convinced that she hasn’t gotten the killer yet, because he may know something she doesn’t…

It’s a very fast-paced novel, where if you blink you’ll miss something. My brain wasn’t quite moving at the same pace as the characters, but for the most part, I never felt lost for too long. (Since generally there’s someone in the scene who’s not quite as fast as the others as well, and thus we all got everything written out.) Giles is smart and sassy, balancing the line between emotion and stoicism nicely. She endures a significant level of abuse from Barker throughout the novel, and handles is remarkably well. I don’t think I would have lasted as long as she did.

That being said, the overt racism that Barker spews throughout the entire book becomes a bit overbearing at times. I understand that the racism and the way it forces him to react to Giles is an important plot and character point, but there’s never a break from it. Slurs get thrown around left and right, condescending remarks made at the drop of a hat; for a man who’s trying to manipulate Giles, he never makes himself even remotely tolerable. Even with the promise of information. I can’t fathom anyone putting up with that for that long. (Granted, I’m an American reader and this is a British book, and it’s possible that the situation would be handled differently. But given what I’ve seen of current politics both here and there, I’m not sure we’re all that different at the moment.)

There are characters who are brought in to be their Important Plot Piece and then essentially vanish into the night again. This type of character frustrates me immensely–and at least in one case, there’s no way for said character to show up in a potential follow-up book, unless it’s as a ghost. There’s also a certain Sherlock Holmes vibe to Giles that doesn’t quite get pulled off as well as I think it could be. Half the fun of most thrillers or mysteries is figuring it out alongside the detective. By the end, Giles was making leaps of logic that I never could have seen. (Again, this may be at least partially a cultural disconnect.) Maybe I’m just not smart enough for the book, but as it did with Tony Noland’s VERBOSITY’S VENGEANCE, it leaves me feeling a little deflated at the end. It wasn’t ever established that Giles is some brilliant detective savant–a la Sherlock Holmes–so I expect to be able to follow along. Her reveals brought more of a “…dear God, how did she possibly notice that?”

On a small editing standpoint, Tingley appears to be addicted to ellipses. Don’t get me wrong; I use them far more than I should myself. So when even I’m noticing how often they show up…

That all being said, it was a very enjoyable read that kept me pretty well glued to my Kindle. I rarely read thrillers as quickly as I did this one. The characters are fun and enjoyable (except for Barker) and the plot was interesting and full of twists and turns. And when we do find out about the informant, it’s entirely worth the wait, and sets up its own level of intrigue. I can easily see us following Giles on with this piece, even further into the depths of the case.

Rating: ***1/2 – Definitely Worth a Look

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